Sun. Rain. Long weekend. Regular weekend. For years race director Phil Chew has organized the West Side Wheel Up mountain bike race, and year after year the numbers are about the same - as is the amount of money raised for the B.C. Para-Alpine Ski Team, which Chew coaches. But this year, with a new weekend and no competition from other events, Chew has a feeling it's going to be one of the biggest yet.
The race has typically taken place on the first Saturday in September, but this year it's being held on September 17. It's a timeslot typically occupied by the Cheakamus Challenge Fall Classic, but with that race no longer on the schedule the Wheel Up has a weekend of its own - no Xterra, no GranFondo.
"With the Cheakamus Challenge no longer taking place the Wheel Up is now the longest running classic race in Whistler at 18 years," said Chew.
The course has changed a lot over the years, getting slightly easier as steep sections of Lower Sproatt were replaced with Piece of Cake and A La Mode bypasses, and upper Lower Sproatt was completely rebuilt. Beaver Pond, a mostly beginner trail, was also added to the mix.
Last year the technical Beaver Pass trail was taken out because of construction in the area, rerouting riders down Danimal North - another trail that's a little easier after getting a facelift. From there the course follows Whip Me Snip Me and crosses the bridge to the Rainbow Flank Trail and Bob's Rebob.
To lengthen the course a little and take out a section of road riding, Chew added Get Over It last year - a new trail that connects Rebob to Mel's Dilemma. From there, riders cross the highway and link to A River Runs Through It, which riders tackle in its entirety. The race finishes at Rainbow Park, following a new section of trail added two years ago.
The top times are around an hour, while slower riders can take around three hours.
"If you can do Betty Vs. Veronica or any of the longer Toonie Rides then you can do this race," said Chew. "On River and other trails there are go-arounds for some of the technical stuff. It's really a doable race."
The cost is $25 and you must be a member of WORCA to take part - if not you can pay $15 for one-day race insurance. The entry fee includes the race, food and refreshments at the after-party and a raffle ticket to win draw prizes that include a ski pass for the 2011-2012 season, hotel-stays, gift certificates from restaurants and gear donated by local stores of all descriptions. Thousands of dollars in items are donated each year.
Registration is at the corner of Highway 99 and Function Junction starting around 10:30 a.m., with the ride starting at noon. Riders will roll out onto old Millar Creek road to Alta Lake Road, then climb Cardiac Hill to the entrance to Lower Sproatt.
All proceeds from the race go towards the B.C. Para-Alpine Ski Team, providing bursaries for athletes that are looking to represent Canada at the 2014 Paralympics in Sochi, Russia and beyond.
"I have about four guys that could move up (to the national team), and there's a possibility that they could be in Russia," said Chew. "I had two guys move up last year to the team, and they couldn't have done that without help from the West Side Wheel Up over the years."
This year race founder Les Clare has promised to attend. Clare sustained a spinal injury while working on a friend's home and in 2000 the proceeds from the race went to his family to help with his recovery. The following year Clare asked that the proceeds go to the provincial adaptive ski team.
Chew is hoping to get a minimum of 150 riders this year, but with a new timeslot and the success of events like Betty vs. Veronica in attracting riders he is hoping they could get as many as 200.
The race goes rain or shine, and if it's raining the after-party will take place under tarps built around the finish area.
Chew is looking for someone to help out with timing this year. If you can help time, contact Phil Chew at 604-932-2110.